Boulder Burlesque is the brainchild of dancer and therapist Jenna Noah, aka Madame Merci. She teaches the classic dance style, and her troupe performs regular shows. Her take on burlesque is inspiring – the female empowerment and confidence boosting. Noah is also responsible for the entertainment at this month’s Exotica Erotica Ball.B
Yellow Scene: Tell us a little about Boulder Burlesque…
Jenna Noah: I founded Boulder Burlesque about five years ago. It started out as a dance troupe, with us performing here in Boulder (we do events in Denver now as well), and it’s grown. I teach classes now at Alchemy of Movement, and I lead workshops too which are more intensive, allowing women to tap into their sexuality and sensual expression. They’re really empowering and fun. Recently, I became a co-owner at Alchemy of Movement, so it’s really a good pairing for thew burlesque work. We do all kinds of dance classes at Alchemy, but the burlesque started here – I started the dance troupe out of Alchemy. It’s been a fun journey. It’s been about five years and we’ve put on 50-60 shows. We do private parties, bachelorette and bachelor parties, all kinds of different things.
YS: Who comes to the burlesque classes? Is it for anyone of all ages, sizes and shapes?
JN: The dance classes are pretty open, as long as people are there to dance. The classes are not a space to watch. People come to sneak a peak. We have some older and some younger women. Some men come – not a ton, but some. It’s really diverse. The dance troupe is a little bit mixed-age too. The whole theme is based on something I call conscious burlesque. That’s a dance mentality that encourages women to begin to accept and love their bodies and love themselves for who they are. So I’m not particularly picky when someone comes and they’re having a lot of issues around their body. I’m really wanting to see how people show up and dance, and express themselves, rather than nit-pick about the size of their thighs or breasts. It’s really an art, a full-body expression, that allows women to really accept themselves and to tap into their sensual and sexual roots in a really safe way.
YS: How did you get involved in burlesque? What was the attraction?
JN: I was a student, getting my Master’s degree in therapy, and there were zero classes in my program that were based on sexuality. There were so many things that weren’t getting expressed or talked about. I wanted to start the dance troupe to give an outlet for what I was not getting at school. The original troupe were primarily therapists in training. It became a space where we could dance, we could talk about our own sexuality, and it was a really great outlet. I’m actually a therapist with a private practice here in Boulder. I work with all genders around the topic of sexuality. Sometimes I work with couples that have sexual disparity. Sometimes I work with people who are working on being more confident in the way they express themselves.
YS: Tell us about the Exotica Erotica Ball…
JN: It started in Boulder with a different owner, and for a long time it was in operation at the Boulder Theater. They kinda got shut down – the rumor is that it got a little too racy and that the Boulder Theater is more of a family-friendly venue. Somebody contacted me a few years ago, wanting to rekindle the essence of the ball. I’ve been helping do the entertainment. This year, we have a lot of people doing kink carnival activities. There are different booths that you can go to, like hot wax. You can watch – you don’t have to participate. But if you want to buy a carnival ticket, you can go and get spanked, there’s someone who will be doing rope-tying, and nipple play with clamps and things like that. It’s going to be a fun event. It sells out every year. It’s just an opportunity for people to put on their risqué costumes and step into a different role or character for one night. There’s something there for everyone. We do the event in Boulder and also in Denver, and there’s dancing and music. In general, it’s a really good time.
YS: Do you feel that you’re battling a stigma, that you have to open people’s eyes to sexuality rather than this be seen as a seedy thing?
JN: I think initially I did. But burlesque is an art-form. It’s entertainment, and it’s empowering for women. Initially I had some insecurities because I was really young and I was worried that, if I did burlesque and I was a therapist, it would be bad for my image. I have a really successful practice, and my clients know that I dance. They speak to me because they feel comfortable with me. It feels good, classy, and representative to the women I work with. It doesn’t feel demeaning. They’re all there because they’re expressing something that they want to express. I feel blessed doing the work that I do, and having the art that I’m able to create. It’s a nice blend.
For more information, go to consciousburlesque.com. The Exotica Erotica Ball takes place on Saturday, October 24 at Shine; 2027 13th St, Boulder; 303-449-0120; then on Sunday, October 25 at the Mercury Cafe; 2199 California St., Denver; 303-294-9281.